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Bob Forrest and Keirda Bahruth Capture the “Monster”

Bob Forrest and Keirda Bahruth Capture the “Monster” (photo)

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In the midst of one of the biggest music festivals in the world, Bob Forrest wanted the music to be shut off. “Look at this fucking thing that’s going on,” he asks me, gazing back in the direction of Austin’s infamous 6th Street. He laughs, “Do you want to be over there in that fucking thing?”

Though Forrest is still an active musician, there was a time when he was right in the middle of the fray. As the frontman of Thelonious Monster, he came up with a group of Los Angeles bands including the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone (also the subject of an excellent documentary at SXSW called “Everyday Sunshine”) that ruled the L.A. scene in the early ’80s with a sound that found the rhythm in chaos described as “drunk rock” by one critic. And Forrest was drunk, and high for most of it, alienating bandmates, missing in action for his immediate family and failing upward as Thelonious Monster became coveted by major labels, even though the band would never hold together long enough with a tempermental lead singer to ever see mainstream success.

However, where “Bob and the Monster” differs from most documentaries about burnt out musicians is that Forrest ultimately traded one art for another, becoming a drug counselor with an unusually compassionate touch. Some may know this already from “Celebrity Rehab,” the VH1 show where he’s often been a shoulder to cry on and without a doubt the calmest person in the house. (Outside is another matter since as he told the audience at the film’s premiere, “lf you’re a fan of that show, I appreciate it, but I’m not.”)

Still, what director Keirda Bahruth captures in “Bob and the Monster” is the wild streak that fueled Forrest’s early days as singer/songwriter who found eloquence in the mundane to his crusade against the accepted treatment of addiction, which trades out injections and inhalations for prescription pills in favor of a more human, compassionate approach. As the film demonstrates, none of this came easy to Forrest, who had to endure some unusual discoveries in his family tree, a post-rock life flipping burgers in the L.A. coffee shop Millie’s, and a particularly ill-conceived cover of Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” on his way to becoming a confidant to the likes of Courtney Love and opening his own shop, Hollywood Recovery Services, to practice the treatment that helped him recover from his own demons. A day after the film’s premiere at SXSW, Forrest and Bahruth sat down to discuss his remarkable story, as well as some of what wasn’t in the film, the ways the music industry and the drug industry are quite similar, and why there really are second acts.

How did this documentary come together?

Keirda Bahruth: I have been aware of Bob since I was a teenager through his band Thelonious Monster. I was a fan of his band and through that, I came across a record that he put out called “The Bicycle Thief” in 2000. When I heard that record, I was really moved. I knew Bob had a drug problem back in those days and “The Bicycle Thief” is a very autobiographical record, so you could hear a lot of his story. And I became very intrigued with wanting to make a film about him. I knew that there was a really compelling, interesting story, and Bob is very likeable, so I approached him.

Bob Forrest: The Bicycle Thief record really is a document of what happened after the crash – it has a song about the first time I picked up a guitar sober, like really sober after years of trying. And I always feared getting back into music because I thought it would lead back into drugs. A lot of that is on there – that hesitancy. It’s a pretty honest document of what it’s like to survive drug addiction and what it’s like to try to create a second happier life. Then [Keirda] came and asked about the story and the story hadn’t been written yet. That’s why the film kind of ends like what is he doing? [laughs] I like that feeling because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve got a company. I know that. I’m barely breaking even, I know that. I’ve got a philosophy that’s not very popular, I know that. [laughs]

KB: But you know what, Bob? One of the things that he said to me when I said I want to make a documentary about you, and he said, “that’s great. There’s been a few people that have tried already.” So what had happened there?

BF: There was more of a kind of biopic version of it and then people were compiling things, but why I think the film is so compelling is that there is a developing second act of my life. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “There’s no second acts in American life” – that’s because he’s an alcoholic who died of alcoholism and never had a second chance at life. So my getting sober then is in the process of becoming. And I think that’s documented well in the movie.

I’m not an expert about anything. Anybody who says they’re an expert about addiction – how can you be an expert about something so vague? You can generally educate and say this is generally what happens, but I’ve just seen too much [to standardize] what is the thread that goes through this process that people – drug addicts and alcoholics – transform themselves — it’s indefinable. So how can you be an expert about something that’s indefinable? You can be an expert about describing it and describing generally what happens, but there is no cookie cut formula and that’s my problem with the industry itself that says there is a cookie cut formula.

This film also isn’t a cookie cutter documentary, using claymation to depict some of Bob’s drug use and since it was filmed over many years, the film’s interviews look to be conducted on several different types of cameras, which give it an interesting texture. Was that something you embraced or was it frustrating over time?

KB: I started to embrace that. I think as time went on, I really had a desire for the film to want to look better, but I really embraced the formats of the ’80s too. I really love the way VHS cam looks. I really love the way Super 16 looks. And it really was just a collective of all these different formats, so the Panasonic camera, the SD camera that we used to shoot Anthony [Kiedis] and a couple of those interviews on, that was the popular camera in 2006. Cut to 2010 when we interview Courtney Love and we’re shooting on an HD cam, then you up-res it all to HD, which is the format now, it’s the great sum of the SD cam that used to look really good. So it was a process that could’ve been disheartening, but I learned to embrace it. And so you know what? This is a story that was told over 30 years and at the end, it gets super clean because we’re in present day and in the ’80s, it was really gritty.

BF: Just as a viewer, I think it’s like the memories of things. Some are cloudy, some are distinct – that’s how I see it. I don’t mind that it shifts all around. It seems to bother film people more than just fans of film. [Pointing to Keirda] She saw some blurriness and I’m like the whole thing is memories and ideas and trying to recapture and trying to show [what happened]. [laughs]

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.